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A cautionary note to northern emirs

The news that Sanusi Lamido has been returned as the Emir of Kano is worrying following the passing of a new traditional institutional bill that…

The news that Sanusi Lamido has been returned as the Emir of Kano is worrying following the passing of a new traditional institutional bill that repeals the one passed in 2019.

Kano is one of the oldest traditional emirates in West Africa. It has a rich traditional history, with its first Sultan dating back to 1349. Throughout this illustrious history, such a shameful act or political gimmick has never tarnished its legacy.

As things stand, the new law repealed the Kano State Emirates Council Law of 2019 and its subsequent amendments. All the newly created emirates under the 2019 law were dissolved. This includes the abrogation of all positions and titles that were established as part of these new emirates. The law calls for all individuals who were given titles or positions under the repealed 2019 law to return to their previous roles, provided those roles existed according to traditional customs before the enactment of the 2019 law. The new law also gave the governor of Kano State the power to take all necessary actions to restore the traditional emirate system to its state before the 2019 law was passed.

In saner climes, the legitimate northern emirs will unite to reject the removal of the current Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Bayero. And when the appointment of Sanusi Lamido is ever contemplated, the northern traditional rulers should reject the idea, too. But this is an assumption that our traditional rulers are objective, have a fear of God in their minds, and are not scared of telling the truth to power, the way our fathers and grandfathers did.

Of course, there is precedence. When the controversial Emir of Muri was appointed in 1988, the northern traditional rulers came together to boycott him because he was not elected by the Kingmakers. They have since refused to engage with him, and the emirate has been relegated to among those who are less revered.

The boycott is a similar feat facing the Zazzau Emirate, and this is due to the role SLS played in supporting el-Rufai’s appointment of an unelected candidate by the kingmakers in October 2020. The public followed the event, and everyone was clear that the kingmakers did not select him to be the emir, but they went on to install him. SLS’s controversial interference has left Zazzau handicapped with diminished relevance in the north, quite unlike what it used to be under the last Emirs since the 1800s.

This controversy is making the Kano emirate a political playhouse for the political parties. If the removal of the Kano emirs is allowed to succeed, then the removal of emirs will be made as easy as removing an unelected government official. As I mentioned in November 2020, the long-term consequences of el-Rufai’s action will only appear once he has left the government. The action that is thought to be a one-off is becoming a permanent fixture for politicians, and it will continue. If left unchecked, this will be replicated all around the country.

Therefore, the legitimate northern emirates must act fast. They must come together to reject this controversial political gimmick. They must remember that the legitimacy of the northern emirs is based on traditional governance methods. The interference of a governor only creates more crises, as we witnessed in Zazzau, Sokoto, Gwandu, Muri, Borgu, Kwande, and many other emirates in the last decades. Choosing to delay will be costly for them, if not immediately, eventually. The northern emirs must remember that our traditional institutions, a foundation for our culture and discipline, will be weakened and even governed by impostors, as we have witnessed recently.

The traditional institution is one that makes policy implementation effective and efficient because they are the closest to the community. Providing feedback to the government on the social well-being of society signals the effects of policies. Whenever there is a break in trust between the political leaders and the constituents, the traditional leaders work tirelessly to rebuild it. They are the political fire brigades because of their credibility and the historical trust between them and the community. They are the approachable elites in society because their lives are as spartan as any commoner. Several democratic regimes, and even the military administrations, relied on credibility to build and rebuild trust within the public.

Therefore, if the northern emirs choose not to intervene, we may witness the people from the five emirates of Kano resorting to vigilantism. God forbid; we see a repeat of the uprising we witnessed when SLS was appointed emir in 2014! Similarly, we may see unrest in different emirates across the north, where the people are dissatisfied with their leaders. This could even be the springboard for the people to demand the traditional institutions and empires that existed pre-1804. It could also spur national security challenges in an already volatile region.


Aminu wrote from Cardiff, United Kingdom.


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